Molly’s Game

‘Molly’s Game’ is based on true events. Most films derived from real life tales tend to be more engrossing. This is because the situations really happened gives it a fresh intensity many fictional stories lack. ‘Molly’s Game’ also explores the world of gambling which the majority have partaken in one time or another. We all know the tension and pressure this can cause which screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, making his directorial debut, unearths with great skill.

Molly Brown (Jessica Chastain) is a former Olympic skier wanting more out of life. With her controlling father Larry (Kevin Costner) unable to tame her wild ways, Molly comes up with a sure-fire money-maker. Establishing a high-stakes poker game in New York and Los Angeles, her list of clients quickly grows. From movie stars, athletes, businessmen and eventually the Russian mob, for years, Molly is on a roll. The FBI catches on to her scheme and arrests her. Aided by her lawyer Charlie (Idris Elba), Molly attempts to ease out of her predicament before the last roll of the dice has time to settle.

Known for creating hit TV shows such as ‘the West Wing’, Aaron Sorkin utilises the same dramatic style for ‘Molly’s Game’. Featuring a character wanting to escape the predictability of life by indulging in an unpredictable pastime, Sorkin infuses a sense of danger in his script. This atmosphere is helped immeasurably by the shadowy cinematography, highlighting the dingy world Molly inhabits. Sorkin’s film benefits from Chastain’s strong performance as a woman determined to carve out her own life away from her father.

Costner and Elba also give fine performances in a generally engaging film. Whilst its momentum gradually deflates, the moments in between where Molly chooses which poker players can join her game are fascinating. This is made even more so because these events actually occurred with the world of poker having its own joys and dangers. The eyes of non-gamblers may glaze over during the technical briefings of the games but it’s the characters making ‘Molly’s Game’ compelling.

Poker playing hasn’t been this interesting as ‘Molly’s Game’ shows. Although occasionally slow with scenes amounting to padding, it’s a well-acted drama. For a first-time director, Sorkin has made a fine entrance to the silver screen with his next project hopefully as captivating as his current one.

Rating out of 10: 7

The Commuter

Liam Neeson is no stranger to action films. Having a late career resurgence as a ‘mature’ action star in the ‘Taken’ movies among others, Neeson’s emotional intensity have made them compulsive viewing. ‘The Commuter’ is no different as it thrives on his commanding delivery. His leading man credentials remain intact as he navigates another labyrinthine plot of skulduggery with his physical manoeuvres becoming an inspiration to the over-fifties set.

Insurance salesman Michael (Liam Neeson) is on a train heading home after a tough day. Sadly it’s about to get worse when he receives a mysterious invitation from a stranger offering him $100,000. Asked to identify a hidden passenger before the train’s last stop, little does Michael know the web in which he is now caught. Dragged into a shadowy criminal conspiracy, Michael races against time to solve the puzzle. His life and those of his fellow passengers hang in the balance as the train moves towards its final destination.

‘The Commuter’ is a load of nonsense full of plot inconsistencies and occasionally dodgy acting. It’s also a lot of fun and has a continual air of moody tension. Films like ‘The Commuter’ don’t exist for critics but for undemanding audiences looking for spectacular action. They certainly get that with the characters facing death at every turn. The plot deftly mixes mystery and suspense within a ‘Die Hard on a Train’ motif creating an exciting package. You know what you’re getting for the ticket price and if you go in without too many expectations you’ll be rewarded with an enjoyably over the top romp.

None of this would work without Neeson’s presence. His character’s stoic conviction amidst an outlandish scenario provides the believability the story needs. However ridiculous it gets, you’re still drawn in due to his performance as well as the other cast members. The direction and CGI are decent without being ground-breaking. It is difficult making something new out of the predictable action formula. But everyone gives it a good shot with the cinematography and action sequences well staged even if the pacing slows down towards the end.

‘The Commuter’ is hardly ‘Gone with the Wind’ but it’s a consistently entertaining thriller. It delivers on the promise in the trailers and fans of Neeson’s other action movies shouldn’t be disappointed. It may make others think twice about catching a train however as this is one train ride ‘The Commuter’s’ characters won’t forget in a hurry.

Rating out of 10: 7